For some children, opportunity is part of life in America. But for millions of immigrant children and children of color, life in America is full of obstacles and threats.
That’s the finding of a new report — “2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children.” Released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the report “explores the intersection of children, opportunity, race and immigration.”
The report notes that many immigrant children live in low-income and poor families whose median income “is 20 percent less than U.S.-born families.” Specifically:
• more than half of children in immigrant families are low income
• one in four children (4.5 million) are poor, and
• children of immigrants account for 30 percent of all low-income children in the United States, even though they only make up 24 percent of the country’s 74 million children
For children of color, a daunting challenge is living with dizzying layers of disadvantages in “communities where unemployment and crime are higher; schools are poorer; access to capital, fresh produce, transit and health care is more limited; exposure to environmental toxins is greater; and family supports and services are fewer.”
These factors “prevent children from accessing the network of institutions and resources that make prosperity possible. Like the power grid that delivers energy to every home within its network, this ‘prosperity grid’ provides critical links that help children succeed.”
All these childhood inequities shred the country’s social and economic well-being.
“For America to reach its full economic, democratic and moral potential, all children must have the opportunity to grow, develop and thrive,” the report says.
What can the country do? Race for better results, as the report’s title suggests.
“The nation’s vitality and prosperity depend on the success of every child in this country,” Casey Foundation president and CEO Patrick McCarthy says in a statement. “Like generations before them, immigrants have helped further the nation and its economy. We will lose a great deal if policymakers don’t expand existing policies that work and implement new legislation to support children in immigrant families, as well as millions of U.S.-born children of color.”
Much of what’s needed is, the report says, well-known:
“We know what children need: strong families; environments that support healthy early brain development; and the opportunity to develop social and emotional skills. We know from decades of work in foster care and juvenile justice that children have a better chance to succeed when families stay together. And we know children need financial stability, which requires an inclusive economy that allows parents to secure meaningful work; to earn a stable and adequate income; to build assets and savings; and to balance work and family responsibilities.”
The report’s recommendations call for:
• keeping families together and in their communities
• helping children in immigrant families meet key developmental milestones, and
• increasing economic opportunities for immigrant and low-income parents
In addition to the report, a series of Casey Foundation case studies offer guidance on tackling unfair situations.
As the Casey Foundation points out, protecting all children promises to protect the country’s future. The report concludes:
“For everyone’s benefit, our country needs to take an effective, data-driven approach when developing policies that affect all children, and that includes children living in immigrant families. All children are our children, and all our children will play a role in our future. We must create a better future for them — and for the country’s prosperity.”